Clearwater Companion: Bible Notes: Andrej

Andrej Borysko Yakiv Kolisnychenko (Fecker or Fecks) is one of the most enduring characters of the Clearwater and Larkspur series, and he began life as someone else.

As part of my online Clearwater Companion, a guide to the series with notes and other material that I didn’t use in the books, I am putting up a transcript of my bible notes. My ‘bible’ being the main notebook(s) in which I record character and other details so, in theory, I don’t contradict myself later. Today, I’m going to share my notes on Fecker, as he became known in ‘Deviant Desire.’

He started out as Andy, an East End lad, an Artful Dodger to Silas’ Oliver, but I soon realised that a) he wasn’t an Artful Dodger (if anyone, that was Silas) and b) he shouldn’t be an Eastender but an immigrant, and he shouldn’t be gay but straight. There were so many nationalities living in London’s East End at the time of the story, (1888) that the chances are, Silas’ best mate would be from abroad. So, I made him Russian, then German, then settled on Ukrainian, because it was slightly more unusual. As the stories progressed, so did his background because he was a character that formed as I went, rather than being one who arrived on the page fully formed. Creating as you go like this necessitates a well-kept bible, and I’m not always very good at keeping notes, so some of Fecks’ details got lost in my memory, which is one reason we never know exactly how old he is.

As the series progressed, so I wanted to understand more about him and Silas and how they met, and that’s how the prequel, ‘Banyak & Fecks’ came about. Now, after finishing two series during which Fecks goes from fleeing the Russian army in Ukraine, to moving into Academy House as an Austrian Baron, I realise that he is the backbone of both series. All 18 books are really only about him, except they are not, and he is only in the distance in some, while at the forefront of others. He’s my shadow character, the one whose life changes in an epic fashion though mainly in the background as we follow the lives of the others.

Still… Enough rambling. Below are my basic notes, and there are not many of them.

Andrej when he believed he was descended from the Cossacks, hence the long hair. This is one of the depictions created by my cover designer, Andjela, and it captures Fecker’s nobleness and stature.

Andrej Borysko Yakiv Kolisnychenko (Fecker or Fecks)

I have to admit that Fecks always had a vague timeline, and no-one is sure of his exact age, including himself. I wrote an outline of his life when writing ‘Banyak & Fecks’, and some of the dates below do not now correspond with what is in the books. However, what is in the books is as accurate as it can be. In Fecks’ case, there are notes from my bible and from other files.

From the bible.

Andrej Borysko Yakiv Kolisnychenko, “Fecker” or “Fecks” nickname.
Born 1867. Ukrainian. Born around Easter.
In 1888, is 19, fix-foot-two (later six-foot-four), blond, long hair, built like a docker.
Strong, Blue eyes, on streets since 14 (1883), straight, quiet, loyal, wars a greatcoat, generous, dopey, doesn’t swim.
Can understand English and speak it okay, but chooses not to.
‘Big everywhere’ (massive dick).
Silas’ stone, taken from burnt house, was Danylo’s.
Khanjali, Fecker’s knife.
Shuska, Cossack sword.

From my other notes:

Born in March 1867

He thinks he is about 19, as does Silas, but he is actually 21 in 1888, and doesn’t know his exact birthday. He thinks it is around Easter as he remembers celebrations near his birthday and thought they were for him.

He was born inland from Odessa, towards Kiev, in the Mykolaiv region. (Serbka.)


Parents                        Father Borysko 1840 to 1878 (Turkish War)                                    Mother 1842 to 1869 (childbirth)
Poor farmers with five children:
Danylo                        1859 possibly still alive
Vladsylav                    1861 to 1879
Alina                           1864 to 1876
Andrej (Fecker)          1866 (?)
Daria                           1869 possibly still alive

His Names and meaning.

Andrej                         Andrew, manly, masculine
Borysko                      Fight/Battle
Yakiv                           James, Jacob, supplant
Kolisnychenko            The longest Ukrainian surname I could find, lol.

Mykolayiv Region

The boundless fields of Pobuzhzhya and Ingul River region, green vineyards and wonderful flowering gardens under bottomless blue sky is Mykolayiv land.

The agriculture is the leading industry of the regional economy. Mykolayiv Region makes significance payment in strengthening of the country, producing almost seven percents of cereals and sunflower, three percents of gross milk production. The production of cereals and sunflower per capita in the region exceeds the proper indexes on average in Ukraine by three times as well as milk – 10 percents. (wiki)

 YearAge Real ageEvents
1867 0Fecker born Andrej Borysko Yakiv Kolisnychenko Danylo aged 8 (1859), Vladyslav aged 6 (1861) Alina aged 3 (1864)
1868 1 
186902Daria born – mother died in childbirth Compulsory education introduced in Russia
187013Father remarried much younger girl, Fecks considers her mother
187346Fecker compulsory schooling. Farm working. Horses a particular love
187568Danylo general conscription
187679One sister died (Alina, aged 12 at hands of Russian soldiers)
1877810Vlad general conscription
1878911Fecker taught fencing by older brother Danylo and other military roles – tough life, local land skirmishes, learnt to look after himself. Father died, mother left with younger sister Daria, brother away so Fecker left alone to cope with farm.
18791012Vlad killed in a battle in Turkish War/Balkans; dad dead, step-mum and sister gone, other sister dead and then Danylo goes missing after Turkish War. (Possibly to turn up later in a story?)
18801113Fled Ukraine made his own way across Europe, through Austria-Hungary (Moldova, Romania) Working where he could, fighting off abuse and mistreatment when he joined a traveling group of circus horsemen. Killed a man who was trying to rape him and fled towards Hungary
18811214Across Hungary and Slovenia, working, looking after horses, taken in by an older woman and family Left there when woman’s husband returned from war, mad and angry.
18821315Arrived Italy. Crossing towards Med coast, had first experience of sex for sale. Stowed away on a ship not knowing where it was bound. He probably caught the ship in Genoa, but can’t remember the name of the place. Was discovered at sea and able to stay thanks to sexual favours; learnt his trade. Arrived in London in the autumn
18831416Met Silas (book one) Renting
18841517Renting/dock work
18851618Renting/dock work
18861719Renting/dock work
18871820Renting/dock work
18881921Deviant Desire – moves to Clearwater House

Feck appears on more than one cover:

Fecks & Banyak
On a charger on his way to rescue damsels in distress.
Fecks is 2nd from the right, between Prof Fleet (centre) and Will Merrit.

1892 Review

The news today is that ‘1892’ is now available in paperback. Here’s the link:

At the moment, Amazon is only showing the Kindle version, but the paperback link should appear with it soon. It is also available in 11 other Amazon countries, namely: UK, DE, FR, ES, IT, NL, PL, SE, JP, CA and AU.

What’s even better is the review left by Anthony Pisacano. Titled, A Wonderful Christmas Gift!, this is a great review because it gives a succinct outline while not giving anything away, and I couldn’t have put it better myself. Here’s what the review says in full:

Jackson Marsh has gifted his readers another treasure from his Clearwater Tales.

On a train bound for the Christmas Eve festivities at Larkspur Hall, a Baron, housekeeper, detective, antiquarian and a professor, relate to each other tales from their past.

A priest is also in attendance but not for the same reason. He is made welcome to their first-class coach, and becomes privy to their personal stories.

Each story gives us a closer look into the background of the characters we have come to know through the previous stories associated with the Clearwater Mysteries.

I especially enjoyed the Professor’s tale as his background was not divulged when we met him during the Larkspur Mystery series.

I thoroughly enjoyed the tales especially the final “priest’s” tale, which left me with a lump in my throat.

I am so glad I discovered Jackson Marsh’s books. His storytelling is expertly detailed, keeps you interested and wanting more, and he has a great sense of humour that he instils into his characters.

1892 (The Clearwater Tales) is a must-read, and I strongly urge familiarizing yourself with Jackson Marsh’s other books.

I can’t think of a better gift than this!

What can I say but thank you! Hopefully, this review might inspire other readers to follow suit, if not with a review of ‘1892’ then with a review of any of my books. Such things are always useful, because I can do what I’ve done here and pull quotes (or the whole thing) and use them to attract other readers.

As for other news, we are gearing up for a Christmas break which, for me, will begin next weekend and run to the 6th or 7th of January. This year, I shall be closing down next Saturday and giving myself a rest, or at least giving my back a rest from constant desk-sitting and typing. My imagination will not rest, and I’ll be taking a notebook with me when we go to Athens just after Christmas. I’ll post pics and posts on my Facebook pages while we’re away, so you can also enjoy Athens at New Year.

There will be a work-in-progress update on Wednesday and a final blog post of the year next Saturday. In the meantime, thank you to everyone who downloaded the free copy of ‘1892’, and to everyone who continues to support my little writing endeavour, which, as Jackson Marsh, now stands at 30 titles. Eek!

Our sitting room is ready for Christmas!

Seeing Through Shadows, Background

The Clearwater Companion. Larkspur Mysteries, book four

Have you read ‘Seeing Through Shadows’ the Larkspur Mysteries book four? It actually doesn’t matter if you have or haven’t, as this unpublished excerpt gives nothing away.

Chester Cadman has been duped by unscrupulous men, ridiculed in the newspapers, and disowned by his family. Only twenty-two, he is on the verge of starvation when a Clearwater detective makes him an offer he can’t refuse: Join the Larkspur Academy and investigate a haunting that has plagued Lord Clearwater’s family for nearly four hundred years.

What I have here is the original opening for the book, a section I wrote before the Clearwater Mysteries came about. It was to be the opening of a sequel to my standalone, slightly paranormal romance, ‘Curious Moonlight,’ when I invented an abbey in Cornwall and an ancient scandal that occurred around the time of the Reformation. This section is a very early work for me (another way of saying it’s a bit rough around the edges, a first draft and unedited), but the idea behind it stayed, and eventually became the backstory for ‘Seeing Through Shadows.’

Which is why I never throw anything away. Even if the text didn’t appear in the book in this or edited form, the idea behind it did.

It’s a quick read, but before you set off into the past, make a note that next Saturday, I will be revealing the cover of the first in the new series, ‘Finding a Way.’ More about that on my blog posts next week. Meanwhile, step back in time to 1538 and a moonlit night in the grounds of Larkspur Abbey…

Larkspur Abbey, 27th March 1538

The Abbot stood, cloaked and shadowed by the yew tree, his lantern dark and unnecessary thanks to the full moon. It painted the scudding cloud with outlines of silver and caused the unsettled mist to shimmer as it undulated over the damp grass and wove among the ancient stones. The moor mist played silently at the Abbot’s feet, stroking leather shoes before swirling to investigate his companion. As it drew near the second man, it seemed to realise its error and held back, skirting him before pouring down the hill towards the graveyard. There it pooled in a natural bowl, lapping at the base of the knoll as if waiting for a door to open and admit it to the earth.

‘The time draws near,’ the Abbot whispered, his eyes fixed on the far side of the graves.

‘Shall I go down, Father?’

‘No, Jacob. Wait awhile until we see it.’ He flicked his eyes across the tombstones to the church wall in case the apparition had appeared during the blink of an eye, but the mist was undisturbed, and no figure walked. ‘The monk has not returned, I hope?’

‘No, Father,’ Jacob replied. ‘Nor will he. He rides to Plymouth tonight, and thence Exeter and north. He shan’t be seen again.’

The Abbot crossed himself. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘the King’s commissioners are at Dartmoor.’

‘Aye, Father. We all fear for the Abbey.’

‘They will find no corruption here, Jacob.’ The Abbot’s voice was as firm as his belief that he ran an order beyond reproach.

‘Not now the monk has been sent away.’

‘Exactly.’ The Abbot shuffled his feet. ‘And not after you have done your duty.’

Jacob gripped the wooden handle of a dagger, his fingers itchy for work, his muscles tensed and ready.

In the graveyard, the mist became agitated and gathered at a cut in the hillock. Drawn to one place, it swirled in delight when a patch of grassy hillside opened like a door, and swept inside to the dark, unexplored tunnel. It poured around the skirt of a young girl, cowled and wrapped in a cloak of rough wool. Her boots cut through the vapour which pawed and petted before rushing on, as she trod a slow, deliberate path towards the graves.

‘There!’ the Abbot hissed and pulled his man to the cover of the tree. ‘See how it walks? As if floating above the mist.’

The girl made slow, cautious progress towards the east window, pausing to listen, crouching behind headstones when a breeze played at her hood and a startled night creature darted nearby.

‘Shall I go now?’

The Abbot sighed and closed his eyes in a brief prayer of forgiveness. ‘Yes, Jacob,’ he said. ‘But remember how the monk walked and be sure to do the same. Slowly, carefully go, because you know you are doing wrong, because you know God is watching and yet you act against your vows.’

‘I took no vows, Father.’

‘Which is why you are the only one who can do this. But picture yourself as him, and she will not suspect until you are on her.’

‘Aye,’ was all Jacob said as he hid the dagger.

He set off towards the church keeping to the shadows, but when there were none and the moon caught him in his guilty act, he behaved as the monk had done, crouching and crabbing low to the ground. If the girl saw him coming, she would think it was her assignation and not, as the Abbot had planned, her assassination.

He should have seen this months ago. It had become common knowledge in the Abbey despite the vow of silence, a vow he knew his monks rarely kept. If the King’s Commissioner heard of that, there would be trouble enough, but if they learned of the monk, the abbey would be torn down for sure.

The sinner was on his way to Plymouth now, on a mission to take the word of God into the county of Devon, further if possible. The cause of the Abbot’s fear had left, but only half of it. The girl was now against the church wall and creeping around the east to the south side where the shadows deepened in the recesses of buttresses. This is where they met, he had learned. Nightly when there was no rain, the monk and the serving girl from the Hall. It had first been noticed by a novice and gone unreported for the lad feared he would be accused of betrayal. Later, he confessed to a second novice who had the courage to approach the Abbot.

The Abbot knew the monk in question was otherwise virtuous and he rather the man found his way to a woman, rather than any of the noviciates as many monks did. He also knew the lord of the manor. If he reported the matter to him, he would flog all servant girls and possibly throw them out, bringing poverty to their families. The Abbot held his tongue and let the matter proceed. Young love was a fickle thing, he believed, and the pair would soon tire of each other. There should have come an end to it the moment he confronted the monk and told him to stop, but, as the younger man pointed out, it was hypocrisy on the part of the Abbot to cast stones before removing the plank from his own eye, and the Abbot was shamed into silence.

The girl vanished into the darkness between buttresses as Jacob reached the west end wall. He appeared and disappeared as he made his way towards the girl, entering every recess to stay in darkness, just as the monk had done.

It was the news that the King’s Commissioners were coming to Larkspur that forced the Abbot to act. Within a week of the news, he had cleaned house, threatened every monk, and taken every step to ensure the King received a favourable report and thus, he kept his job, his income and peccadillos. The fly in the ointment had been the one monk, so in love with a serving girl that he defied not only his Father but God.

Left with no choice, the Abbot gave the monk an ultimatum. To leave that day on horseback, or in a coffin. The monk had ridden off within the hour, leaving the girl ignorant of his departure, but still living. A confession from her and the abbey was lost.

Jacob reached her recess and slipped into the void. The Abbot listened but heard nothing. Cloud darkened the moonlight, and the scene descended to monochrome gloom until the high breeze took away the cover. As it did, it revealed Jacob dragging the girl’s body into the moonlight and kneeling beside it. His instructions were to haul it to a prepared grave and there bury it, but the man looked up, towards the trees and then back to the body. In a second he was on his feet and running towards the Abbot.

‘The idiot,’ the Abbot hissed.

The hour was late, and no lights glowed in the arched windows of the dormitory or church, and no-one moved in the cloisters. Nocturns had been said and the monks returned to their beds, there to sleep until the bell for Lauds. The perfect time for illegal assignations, but since the Abbot’s dire warning, none had dared. None but the banished monk, now not only a fornicator but the cause of a young girl’s death.

Jacob puffed his way ungainly to the top of the rise and clambered to his master.

‘Father,’ he said, his face paler than the moonlight, his eyes wider than the night sky. ‘I can’t bury the body here.’

Furious, the Abbot gripped the man’s cloak, dragged him close and glared. ‘You fool,’ he spat. ‘Get about your task.’

‘Father, I can’t,’ Jacob protested. ‘Come and see, and you will understand.’

Curious Moonlight

Escaping bad choices, Luke Grey arrives in the Cornish fishing village of Madenly determined never to fall in love with a straight man again. But then he meets Peran Box.

Peran’s passion for investigating historical mysteries is his only escape from a loveless relationship. But then he meets Luke.

Attracted to each other’s differences, the two embark on an intense friendship which sparks hope for Luke and ignites Peran’s gay-curious feelings.

But then they meet Billy, dead for three-hundred years and determined to keep them apart until the mystery of his murder is solved.

The Viscounts Clearwater

Archer’s full title is Archer, Lord Clearwater, Viscount of Riverside and Larkspur, and in effect, he has three viscountcies. However, as is custom, he only uses one, unless it is for a formal announcement. The Riverside and Larkspur viscountcies were added long after the original Clearwater title, Clearwater being the (imaginary) area of Cornwall where the first title was created.

While putting together the Clearwater stories, and ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’ in particular, I delved into Archer’s family history, but never needed to go back further than his father and grandfather. There is mention of his mother’s ancestry in some of the novels, and Archer also has honorary titles after his name thanks to Lady Clearwater’s family: Lord Baradan of Hapsburg-Bran, and Honourable Boyar Musat-Rasnov, are the two that are dragged out on very formal occasions, or when he has a need to impress, such as his court appearance in ‘Fallen Splendour.’ These titles are completely made up, and I used them only to show he had a far-distant connection to the crowned heads of Prussia and Eastern Europe, for a romantic touch.

Archer, Lord Clearwater, Viscount of Riverside and Larkspur

As for the Clearwater title, when I came to write ‘Seeing through Shadows’, I needed to be sure of the history of the viscountcy, and that meant I had to draw up a line of men who had held the title. British titles only carry through the male line, so, in ‘The Larkspur Legacy’, Archer’s nephew could not have inherited his title because the nephew is descended from Archer’s sister.

When I first introduced Archer as the nineteenth viscount, to me, it sounded like it was a very old title, and that is what I wanted. However, later, when writing ‘Shadows’, I realised that for someone to be a nineteenth generation would have meant the title was created around 1240, and the first viscountcy in England didn’t come about until John Beaumont was created Viscount Beaumont by King Henry VI in 1440. My calculation, that the nineteenth generation, Archer, would have come about 646 after the first, is based on the average interval per generation of descendants being 34 years, according to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy.

In other words, it was improbable that a man born in 1859 was the nineteenth generation of the title. Luckily for me, there was a civil war in England during which families fought against families, and it wasn’t impossible the title of Viscount Clearwater could have passed between several sons, brothers and cousins at that time.

This is explained in ‘Seeing through Shadows’ as Chester carries out his research, but what follows is the list of viscounts I created as background research for Chester’s research, and I’ve included it out of interest. Not all viscounts are named, because I didn’t need to name them, but you might like to know:

  • First Clearwater Viscount was created by King Henry VIII after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
  • The fifth to the tenth viscounts were usurpers and feuding brothers, cousins, and uncles during the Civil War from 1642 to 1652.
  • The fourteenth and fifteenth viscounts were smugglers and crooks.
  • The sixteenth, Archer’s great-grandfather, was the Renaissance man and made the money.
  • The ‘should-have-been’ nineteenth viscount was Crispin, Archer’s demented brother, deemed unfit, thus, disinherited of the title by Royal Decree.

The Viscounts Clearwater

From William Riddington, 1541 to Archer Riddington, 1888.

Position          Name                          Born   Died                Title    To

1st                    William                      1511    1571                1541    1571

2nd                                                       1548    1611                1571    1611

3rd                                                        1578    1631                1611    1631

4th                                                        1600    1642                1631    1642

5th        Brother of 4th                                      1645                1642    1645

6th        Killed by cousin                                 1647                1645    1647

7th        Usurped title                                       1649                1647    1649

8th        Brother of 7th                                      1650                1649    1650

9th        Cousin of 8th killed in battle               1651                1650    1651

10th      Brother of 9th                          1600    1652                1651    1652

11th      Legitimate son of 4th               1630    1685                1652    1685

12th                                                      1665    1720                1685    1720

13th                  Charles                        1694    1759                1720    1795

14th                  Banlock                       1727    1800                1759    1800

15th                  William                      1747    1805                1800    1805

16th                  Delamere                    1765    1822                1805    1822

17th                  Matthew Delamere     1800    1870                1822    1871

18th                  Mathias                       1860    1888                1870    1888

19th                  Archer Camoys           1859    –                       1888    –

Silas Hawkins.

As part of The Clearwater Companion, today’s blog takes a look at the character who kicks it all off in ‘Deviant Desire’, Silas Hawkins.

Silas Hawkins is one of two main characters in the prequel to the Clearwater Mysteries, ‘Banyak & Fecks.’ This novel, written after book seven in that series, but coming in date order before the first, tells the story of how Silas met the first real love of his life, Andrej Kolisnychenko (Fecker, or Fecks to his friends). Their love was destined to be platonic, but has remained strong through both the Clearwater and Larkspur series.

It struck me that we had never had an in-depth interview with the trickster, mimic, petty criminal and love of Lord Clearwater’s life, so I called him into the interview room for a debrief, and here is what transpired.

Silas Hawkins is one of two main characters in the prequel to the Clearwater Mysteries, ‘Banyak & Fecks.’ This novel, written after book seven in that series, but coming in date order before the first, tells the story of how Silas met the first real love of his life, Andrej Kolisnychenko (Fecker, or Fecks to his friends). Their love was destined to be platonic, but has remained strong through both the Clearwater and Larkspur series.

Silas Hawkins

Born:               October 21st, 1868.

Place:              Canter Wharf, Westerpool (The Wirral), England

Nationality:    Conceived in Ireland, born in England, but staunchly Irish

1.         What is your full name? Do you have a nickname (if so, who calls you this)?

Silas Hawkins. That’s it. I was named after the priest who slapped me arse when I was born without breath and got me life started. Father Patrick was called Silas before he took holy orders. And aye, I do have a nickname. Me best man, Andrej, calls me Banyak. It’s a word from his village in Ukraine where it means ‘cooking pot.’ He says I got so much boiling in me, I’m like a peasant stew. He’s a one to talk. I call him Fecker, on account of him being a handsome fecker who’s hung like one of them horses he’s mad about.

2.         Where and when were you born?

I were slapped into life in a doorless slum in what they now call the Wirral, on the wrong side of the river to Liverpool, in a place called Westerpool. Our row of tenements was called Canter Wharf, but I forget the number now. Me mam was doing well just then, so we only had a few of us sharing the room, and we had glass in the window. Some of the time, at least.

3.         Who are/were your parents?

Me mam’s me mam, least she were until she died in 1884, leaving me to the mercy of Cousin Rose, the drunken whore, and leaving me to mind me two half-sisters. Me da’, I never knew, as he put me in me mam back in Ballymum and fecked off before she came to England.

Me mam’s old boyfriend, Billy O’Hara, was more of a da’ to me than anyone though. He’d come by, sing me to sleep when I was little, and ended up being me half-sisters’ father. Strange thing was, he also ended up be my mate Jake’s da’, so Jake and the twins are halves, and me and the twins are halves, and that makes me and Jake like brothers, even though we’re not. Anyway, when I took up renting, I also took up Billy O’Hara’s name for a while. He’d not have liked that, but it was the first name to come to mind.

4.         Where do you live now?

Ach, well ain’t you a nosey cur? I live some a the time in London with Archer at Clearwater House in what’s now known as Knightsbridge. Other times, I’m down at Larkspur, his estate near Bodmin in Cornwall. Most of the time I’m in town, because I work with Jimmy Wright more than Archer these days, and we have an investigation business to run.

5.         What is your hair colour and eye colour?

I’m what they call ‘black Irish’ on account I have black hair and blue eyes. Can you not see? You’re sitting right in front of me you culchie eejit.

6.         What do you miss most from your childhood?

Aye, well that’d be me mam. She was a strong woman, leaving Ireland because she fell pregnant and refused to name me father, walked to the coast, got herself on a ship, started a life on her own, carrying me, worked her fingers down, birthed me, and still attended mass. Then, from when I was five, she had to put up with me thieving and me ways, then bore the twins, and all the time putting up with Cousin Rose and the other drunken culchies of Canter Wharf. Got carried off with the sweating sickness when I was sixteen. When she died, I promised her I’d get her a good, stone headstone and sure enough, five years later, I did. That was the last time I went back to her, but she’s with her God, and keeping an eye.

7.         What did you want to be when you grew up?

You didn’t have aspirations in Canter Wharf. If you were a little’un, you went up the chimneys. If you were a bigg’un, you worked in the docks, if you could get any work at all. Me? I didn’t want to be anything. All I wanted was to have money in me pocket, and I didn’t care if it came from someone else’s. Came to London in 1884, soon saw there were more ways of earning a coin than dipping a pocket, and more exciting ways too. Now, at 23, I’m happy where I am. Living with Archer, working with Jimmy, and using me old Westerpool skills of mimicry and trickery when I need them.

8.         What do you consider the most important event of your life so far?

Ach, there’s many: Leaving Westerpool, meeting Mickey the Nick in London and learning his ways, the adventures with Archer and the crew, being shot… But the two that stand out the most?

In date order, first would be meeting Fecks. I was down on me luck and very near out of me life when all I had was water from the borough pump and what I could find in the trough. I stumbled into this court in the Greychurch back alleys to take a leak and let it go over a man chewing on Fecks’ massive… Well, you don’t need to know the details, but I remember finding this massive, blonde statue of a man with his pants down, and I ran away. Then, next thing I remember, he’d taken me in and brought me back from the edge of death. So, that was important.

Second would be when Tommy Payne brought me to Clearwater House because his boss wanted to interview a genuine renter from the streets. There was cash and food in it, and I was waiting in “His Lordship’s” servants’ hall, getting Tommy wound up, when the most gorgeous man I’d never imagined came down the stairs and looked at me. I tell ya, I nearly emptied me happy sacks there and then. Something shifted, you know? Like me mam’s voice in me head said, ‘This is what you have been looking for, Silas Hawkins. This was meant to be.’ She was right.

9.         Do you have any scars?

I’ve a fair few. I got one on me chin in the exact same place Archer has one. He got his from a swordfight with his brother, I got mine from the Ripper’s knife. Then there’s the bullet wound in me shoulder, and a few scars on me shins from burgling that went wrong, and a couple on me heart for friends and me mam who’ve died.

10.       What is you biggest secret? Does anyone else know about this? Which person do you least want to know about this secret, why?

I’m a private investigator, man, of course I’ve got secrets. I was a renter, so there’s a fair few there, I can tell you, and I’ve not exactly stayed on the right side of the law since I was five, but I’m not going to give you details. Aye, I’ve got a few secrets, but in my line of work, it’s best to keep them where they are. But… I do have one big secret that no-one knows, not even Fecks, not even Archer.

Oh, no… Wait. One man does now because I had to ask his advice on it. Professor Fleet at the Larkspur Academy is the only man who knows what I’m planning, but he’s not going to say anything, and besides, everyone will know it soon enough.

11.       If you could change one thing in your life what would it be?

I’d have me mam back, she’d be living in a decent house, and the twins with her, and none of them would be servants. Mind you, Iona and Karan like where they are, they’ve got friends, they’re well paid, and Mrs Kevern treats them good.

Other than that, I’d like Archer not to be so worried all the time, but that’s temporary. Kingsclere is trying to discredit him in the newspapers at the moment, but I’ve a plan to put a stop to that one way or the other.

12.       What is your most treasured possession?

Well, that’s a long story. It’s a small black and white pebble that came from a river in Ukraine. It is a piece of Fecker’s homeland, and he brought it with him when he fled the Russians. That and his grandfather’s dagger was all he owned when we met in London, and once the Ripper started on his rounds, and we was fearing for our lives, he gave it to me to prove he loved me – as a friend, but that’s enough.

13.       What three words would others probably use to describe you?

Sexy little fucker. Thieving little bastard. Loyal best friend. Dirty whore-pipe scum… Take your pick, I’ve been called them all.

14.       Where do you see yourself in five years?

Right where I am now. Loving Archer, working with Jimmy, making the most of life, dodging the law, and still never having got on a horse. They’re beasts and should be banned. Who knows where we’ll be in five months, let alone five fecking years? I should have been dead years ago, and would have been if it weren’t for Fecks. I can say the same about Jimmy who caught me when I nearly fell eighty feet into an opera. So, I’d like to be where I am with all me mates around me, waking up in Archer’s bed and happy. That’s only me and Archer waking up in his bed, not me and all me mates… Ach, you know what I mean.

15.       What do you have in your pocket?

Er… Me black and white pebble, a set of lockpicks, fifty pounds and a receipt from a jeweller in Bond Street, which reminds me… I’ve an appointment, so if you’re done with your nosing, I’ll be about me business. Oh, and you’d best not print any of this.

Silas appears on five of the Clearwater Mysteries book covers. Banyak & Fecks, Deviant Desire, Twisted Tracks (running for a train in silhouette), Unspeakable Acts, and is represented on the cover of Negative Exposure.

You can find all the Clearwater and Larkspur books here.

Some Notes About Andrej (Fecker)

The Clearwater Companion

I am Andrej Borysko Yakiv Kolisnychenko, and no-one can rob me of my name.

Banyak & Fecks, Chapter one

Andrej Borysko Yakiv Kolisnychenko

Starting with the prequel, Andrej is the first character we meet in the Clearwater series, and ending with The Larkspur Legacy, he is the last to leave the stage. You could say that the entire series of 18 books charts his life because he appears in or is mentioned in every book. Although he rented when he had to, Andrej is one of the few straight characters in the series, and I have to admit, he is one of my favourites.

He started out as a lad from the East End called Andrew or Andy, and was to be Silas Hawkins’ sidekick, but as soon as he appeared in the first chapter of Deviant Desire, I knew he had to be more interesting than an Oliver Twist to Silas’ Artful Dodger. As there were so many immigrants in London at that time, particularly the East End, I decided to make him German, then Russian… then thought, no, something nobler and with more history, so Ukrainian. I wanted a big, strapping, everybody-loves-him straight man to be Silas’ unlikely best friend, and thus, Andrej was born.

I gave him such a long and complicated name because I wanted to make a comedy moment out of it (when Thomas or Tripp has to announce him to Archer), but also, so I could show how much Silas thinks of him because he can pronounce it perfectly.

One of the books I am particularly proud of is ‘Fallen Splendour’, in which Fecker features prominently. In one scene, he is telling Archer of the tragedy of his family back in Ukraine, and it’s a levelling moment for Archer and an important one for Fecks. I had a few tears as I wrote it, and I had different tears at the end of the book too, and all because of this hulking but very fit, loveable, plain-talking straight man.

Clearwater Companion Notes

Here are my initial notes about Andrej, one of the mainstay characters of the Clearwater Mysteries. Some of these facts changed over time, particularly Fecks’ year of birth, because he doesn’t know it. He only knows the family celebrated it around Easter time.

Born in March 1867 (?)

He thinks he is about 19, as does Silas, but he is actually 21 in 1888, and doesn’t know his exact birthday. He thinks it is around Easter as he remembers celebrations near his birthday and thought they were for him.

He was born inland from Odesa, towards Kyiv, in the Mykolaiv region

Mykolayiv Region

The boundless fields of Pobuzhzhya and Ingul River region, green vineyards and wonderful flowering gardens under the bottomless blue sky is Mykolayiv land.

Agriculture is the leading industry of the regional economy. Mykolayiv Region makes significant payments in strengthening the country, producing almost seven per cent of cereals and sunflowers, and three per cent of gross milk production.


Father Borysko 1840 to 1878 (Turkish War)

Mother 1842 to 1869 (childbirth)

Poor farmers with five children:

Danylo            1859 possibly still alive
Vladsylav        1861 to 1879
Alina                1864 to 1876
Andrej          1866 (?)
Daria               1869 possibly still alive

 YearAgeReal ageEvents
1867 0Fecker born Andrej Borysko Yakiv Kolisnychenko Danylo aged 8 (1859), Vladyslav aged 6 (1861) Alina aged 3 (1864)
1868 1 
186902Daria born – mother died in childbirth Compulsory education introduced in Russia
187013Father remarried a much younger girl, Fecks considers her mother
187346Fecker compulsory schooling. Farm working. Horses a particular love
187568Danylo general conscription
187679One sister died (Alina, aged 12 at hands of Russian soldiers)
1877810Vlad general conscription
1878911Fecker taught fencing by older brother Danylo and other military roles – tough life, local land skirmishes, learnt to look after himself. Father died, mother left with younger sister Daria, brother away so Fecker left alone to cope with farm.
18791012Vlad killed in a battle in Turkish War/Balkans; dad dead, step-mum and sister gone, other sister dead and then Danylo goes missing after Turkish War. (Possibly to turn up later in a story?)
18801113Fled Ukraine made his own way across Europe, through Austria-Hungary (Moldova, Romania) Working where he could, fighting off abuse and mistreatment when he joined a travelling group of circus horsemen. Killed a man who was trying to rape him and fled towards Hungary
18811214Across Hungary and Slovenia, working, looking after horses, taken in by an older woman and family Left there when woman’s husband returned from war, mad and angry.
18821315Arrived Italy. Crossing towards Med coast, had first experience of sex for sale. Stowed away on a ship not knowing where it was bound. He probably caught the ship in Genoa, but can’t remember the name of the place. Was discovered at sea and able to stay thanks to sexual favours; learnt his trade. Arrived in London in the autumn
18831416Met Silas (book one) Renting
18841517Renting/dock work
18851618Renting/dock work
18861719Renting/dock work
18871820Renting/dock work
18881921Deviant Desire – moves to Clearwater House

Banyak & Fecks

I wrote the prequel to the Clearwater series after publishing One of a Pair, and some of the events that occur have a bearing on book nine, Negative Exposure. You can read the prequel at any time; it’s not a mystery, but it’s a book about friendship, and it’s structured in four parts. Andrej | Silas | Andrej & Silas | Banyak & Fecks. The story leads up to a couple of days before the start of Deviant Desire, and it has moments of comedy, love, eroticism, drama and sadness.

Banyak & Fecks – link to Amazon page

Here’s a drawing I commissioned. It was meant to show Silas and Andrej aged about 16/17 and it’s meant to be a photo. I wasn’t totally impressed by the work, so I never used it, and I think this is the first time I’ve shown it.

Here’s a short extract from chapter one. Andrej has decided to make his own way in the world and is escaping his war-torn village.

His movements controlled, his fear tempered by resolve, he slithered away as silently as he had come. Once deep among the shadowy ferns, he stood, a sapling in a forest of fools, and left them to their fate. Gradually, the camp faded into darkness, and the hillside gave way to the fields beyond which the ruins of his village smouldered in the approaching dawn.
The land was a vast basin of streams and farmland, bordered to the south by the Black Sea, to the east, the broad river Dnieper, and to the north, plains that stretched further than anyone could walk. It was a barren place in winter when the snow buried the crops, and the Balai froze. In summer, when the sun beat relentlessly on his back, it was a place of hard work, scything and baling. Autumn brought misty days for ploughing, and softer earth from which to pull the harvest, and the spring, a promise of regrowth and rain when the butts filled, and he picked flowers for his stepmother.
   His ancestors had worked the land for more generations than his father could make him understand. Their bones rested in the ossuary, while those more recently lost lay with his grandparents beside the church. Once white, it was now scarred with burn-black, half its dome destroyed, its walls pitted by firing squads. Nearby, Jewish and Christian bodies lay together in a mass grave of sadness and anonymity that also held his father, but he wouldn’t look there.
   The first pink rays of the sun tinted his grandmother’s grave her favourite colour, and remembering her voice and wise words, he smiled. Babusya was always with him along with his grandfather’s knife, and straightening himself with pride as they had taught him to do, he spoke to the gravestone.
   ‘I am Andrej Borysko Yakiv Kolisnychenko,’ he stated. ‘And no-one can rob me of my name.’

Archer, Lord Clearwater: An Interview.

In this week’s blog, you can get to know the main character from the Clearwater Mysteries, Archer, Lord Clearwater. Here’s a little background, and Archer’s answers to five questions.

This interview with Archer took place before January 1890 and the events depicted in ‘The Clearwater Inheritance.’

Lord Clearwater is Archer to his friends and the 19th Viscount Clearwater of Riverside and Larkspur to everyone else. He was the second son of the 18th viscount, Mathias Riddington and Lady Emily Hapsburg-Bran. He was educated at Millfield prep school from 1868 to 1872 when he was sent to Dartmouth to begin his naval education and training.

In 1877, he became a lieutenant on The Britannia, where he served under his brother, Crispin, during conflicts on the Black Sea. Archer was honourably discharged from the Navy in 1886 following a near-fatal injury inflicted by his own brother.

When Crispin was declared incurably insane, the 18th viscount reluctantly gave into Lady Emily’s wishes and arranged for Archer to succeed the title on his death. Mathias, Lord Clearwater died suddenly from heart failure in 1888, and the title passed to Archer. The inheritance, however, did not.

You have unusual Christian names. Can you explain them, and do you have any nicknames?

I suppose my forenames might be considered unusual, but they are perfectly explainable. My father, you see, was a devotee of the Hundred Years War and the Battle of Agincourt in particular. It was something to do with his sense of hating everything and everyone that was not British. My elder brother was named Crispin because Agincourt was fought on St Crispin’s day, and I was Christened Archer because it was the archers, they say, who won the battle for the British. Camoys, my second name, comes from Baron Thomas Camoys, who led the left flank of the soldiers on that day. I am lucky I was not named after the commander of the archers; otherwise, I would have Erpingham as my second name. Why he could not have just called me Thomas and had done… But there we are. My father never liked me.

As for pet names, my elder brother had various unsavoury words for me, which I shall not repeat here. My mother and some of my close friends call me Archie, which I quite like. My Horse Master, Mr Kolisnychenko, calls me ‘Geroy.’ Apparently, in his village in Ukraine, that was the word they used for someone noble. The Geroys, in his mythology, were fierce warriors and very noble men. Mr Kolisnychenko has such names for everyone, including my friend Tom whom he calls ‘Bolshoidick.’ Bolshoi, of course, means ‘big’, so I rather got off lightly.

The Illustrated Times from the day Archer was born, Saturday, March 26th, 1859. The illustration shows “The Prince of Wales’ balcony on the Corso, Rome, during the carnival.”

Where and when were you born?

I was born on the 26th of March 1859 in Clearwater House, Riverside, in London. What is now the London Borough of Riverside (south and north) was originally family land, my family being Riddington. We… I still own much property and land within what is now the borough and I keep my London house there. *

My mother kept a copy of The Illustrated London News from the day of my birth. You would rather think she had more pressing matters that day, but she was something of a collector. It was a Saturday, and the news was about the threat of war in Europe. Not much has changed.

*The area is now what we know as Knightsbridge, Belgravia, South Kensington and Chelsea. Ed.

How would you describe your childhood?

My first recollection is of being put in a tub of cold water by a large lady in black. This, I later discovered, was our nanny, and it was she who brought me up until the age of eight. My father was often away, managing to be at Larkspur when the family was in London, and in London when my mother took me to Larkspur. At the edge of eight, I was sent to a preparatory school in Kent and only saw my parents on rare occasions. I saw my brother, Crispin, more often, and there were some happy times between us. That changed as he grew older until, when I was twenty-seven, he was incarcerated because he was, by then, a lunatic. I suppose his tendencies had manifested themselves in our childhood, but had gone unnoticed. Because he was also my father’s favourite, they went unpunished. Where I was often birched for things Crispin had done, Crispin was allowed to get away with murder. He very nearly murdered me when he attacked me during a land skirmish when we were both fighting for the Odessians by the Black Sea.

My point here is, my upbringing was traditional; boarding school, elocution lessons, Latin, the classics, a little music, but only because my grandfather encouraged it, and the usual rounds of what the Honourable Master Archer was supposed to do. However, Crispin was the eldest and the heir, while I was just the spare and never meant to take the title. Whereas Crispin’s education leant towards country pursuits, estate management, and so on, I am very pleased to say mine was more towards academia and the arts. My father, of course, put a stop to that with the military academy, and I attended Dartmouth and Greenwich naval training college from the age of thirteen to seventeen when I received my first commission.

Life as the second son of a man with a title is not as pleasant as you might think. When my mother arrived to collect me for my first year at prep school, I didn’t know who she was.

Any particular childhood memories that stand out?

Apart from constant bullying by my deranged brother, whippings from my father, fierce nannies and cold dormitories, you mean?

Yes, actually, and it was something that happened when I was about thirteen and preparing to be shipped off to the military academy. I was at Larkspur, it was summer, and involved my, then, one and only friend, Tom Payne, who was then a hall boy. When my father was absent, my mother encouraged me to go below stairs. This was for two reasons. I firmly believe she wanted me to understand the servants’ lives so I would appreciate how lucky I was. I also think she knew I was a lonely child who craved to be loved, but she was unable to provide that love. As a result, I was able to spend much time with Tom, and we got ourselves into all manner of scrapes, much to the annoyance of Mr Tripp, my father’s butler, and to the amusement of the housekeeper, Mrs Baker.

One summer afternoon, there was some function or other taking place in the Hall and Tom and I escaped the clutches of Nanny and Tripp and set off on an adventure on the moors. (Larkspur Hall is on Bodmin Moor.) I can’t remember how it came about, but we ended up near what we called the Frog Pond, rolling down a hill and ending up on top of each other, me pressing down on him. I shan’t say more for fear of embarrassing Tom, who is now the Larkspur Steward, but I will drop a clue and say that was my first kiss. The joy and consequent confusion of that afternoon are offset by the horror and fear of an incident that had happened a few years earlier. Again, I had extracted Tom from below stairs (we were nine and eleven then) and persuaded him to slide down the marble bannisters on the grand staircase. It’s a horseshoe, you see, so we had one bannister each and would race from top to bottom. On this day, Mr Tripp caught us, and Tom fell. He could have died, but luckily, he only broke his arm. I was more scared that I’d hurt my friend than I was at the whipping I knew would come when Tripp told Father.

With good, there is always bad.

Thomas Payne, Archer’s lifelong friend, later his butler and estate steward. Through his life, Tom has gone from being the son of a dairy farmer to a hall boy, footman, butler, steward and gentleman. There has been something between Tom and Archer since book one of the mysteries, ‘Deviant Desire’, and we’re never too sure if they have or haven’t… you know. Then, there is that thing that happened in Paris in ‘Negative Exposure’ which can only set us wondering…

What do you measure success in? (Money, career, husband/wife, children, happiness, etc.)

I measure my success by the happiness and well-being of others. In other words, by the success of my charities and businesses. I don’t mean that to sound overly grand; as far as I am concerned, I do not do enough to help those who cannot help themselves, but I do what I can. Sometimes that’s in the Lords, lobbying parliament members to amend bills favouring the poor. Sometimes, and for me, principally, it is in the administration of my charities: A women’s refuge, St Mary’s Hospital, a relief fund for the out of work, and one for sailors unable to work because of injury while in service. Now, I also have the Cheap Street Mission for young men who, rather than prostitute themselves, want to better themselves. We give them the chance to start again. My secretary and lover, Silas Hawkins and I set it up following the Ripper incidents in 1888. Silas still oversees it from a distance, but it is now run by a young man who, like Silas, was a renter, thereby proving that my ‘system’ works.

As we speak, I am in the process of establishing what we must call an ‘Academy.’ It’s called that so we can secure funding and permission, my legal man tells me, but learning is only part of what we will do. The ‘House’ as I call it, is on the Larkspur estate and will be a place where young men (and one day, women, I hope), will be able to come to develop their talents in… Well, in anything. My aim is to find a man to be the overseer, bring in mentors for the young men as and when required, and have a place where they can simply be and develop themselves. These young men will be from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as those we help at Cheap Street. Mainly, I hope, they will be men who have fallen foul of the hideous Labouchere amendment. Men who have been deemed criminals because of their ‘unspeakable acts’, their ‘deviant desire’ to love other men, or who have in some other way fallen foul of laws that forbid men from loving men. I believe the German doctor of the mind, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, coined the word ‘Homosexual’, but that sounds far too clinical for me. I refer to such men as ‘members of the crew’, mainly for their own protection.

So, to finally answer your question, I measure my success in the happiness of others. After all, there is no greater gift than to bestow joy.

You can start the adventure with ‘Deviant Desire’ and follow the lives of Archer, Silas (pictured with him on the cover), Tom and the rest of the Clearwater Crew right through 10 Clearwater Mysteries (and the prequel, ‘Banyak & Fecks’), and on into the seven Larkspur Mysteries. Who knows, soon, there may be another series featuring these popular characters.

The Clearwater Companion: Backstage Bible

Bible Notes

As soon as I realised I was to write a series, I began what writers call a ‘bible.’ This, in my case, is a leather-bound notebook in which I record basic details of characters and places, various notes, maps and other information which I can refer to later. Doing this helps avoid errors further on in the series, so, for example, a character’s eyes don’t change their colour, or he isn’t suddenly a year older than he should be.

Some characters have more notes than others. Archer’s entry, for example, covers two pages, and some of the notes make little sense. However, over time, I will add these notes to the Clearwater Companion and include everything I have in my bible per character, and some other snippets that might be of interest. Most of the dates and ages in these notes relate to 1888, particularly for the characters of Archer, Silas, Thomas, Fecker and James.

[By the way: I have started building a Companion page for this website. It will be an index of all the ‘Clearwater Companion’ posts that I have and will put up over the next year or so. As soon as there is enough in the index, I’ll make the page public.]

Bible Notebook

This is it in the image:

These are some of my notes from my leather-bound Clearwater bible, my main depository of notes that keep me on track as the series grows. Apart from the locations section, I put these notes in the order they appear in my books, so they jump around a little, but I later, for the companion, I will arrange them under the series book number and title. Where a character has a whole page or two for their own notes, I will put them in a separate section.


Throughout the two series, I have used real and imaginary locations, or real locations to which I have given imaginary names. My original idea was to set Deviant Desire in a parallel London, so as not to upset Ripperologists. However, later, I realised that there was nothing wrong with using real places, as long as my descriptions were as accurate as I could make them. In the location sections, I make notes about whether the places are real or not, and mention those where the name is changed.

  • The city                                   London
  • Greychurch                             The area/borough of Whitechapel
  • Limedock                                The area bordering the river, Limehouse
  • The Crown and Anchor          Archer’s nearest pub in North Riverside
  • Riverside North and South     (Kensington and Chelsea)
  • Cleaver St                              Cleveland Street
  • Five Dials                               Seven Dials near Covent Garden
  • The Grapevine restaurant      The Ivy, near Seven Dials
  • Prince’s Bridge                       The Albert Bridge
  • St Matthew’s Park                  Hyde Park

Clearwater House, Bucks Avenue, London, W.

A very rough plan of the ground floor of Clearwater House. You should be able to enlarge it. Ps, I am not an architect!

Clearwater House borders St Matthew’s Park, and although made up, would have been to the west of Knightsbridge underground station, somewhere around what’s now Prince’s Gate. I named the street Bucks Avenue after the location of what’s commonly thought to be the first Jack the Ripper murder. On August 31st 1888, Mary Ann Nichols was found dead in Bucks Row, Whitechapel. Bucks Row is now called Durward Street.

Places In Greychurch

  • Saddle Square
  • The Ten Bells                         Real pup in Spitalfields
  • The Lamb and Compass         Pub in Limedock
  • Cheap Lane                             Invented
  • Leather Lane                           An ally leading to The Ten Bells
  • City Street, main road             Whitechapel Road
  • Tanner’s Yard                         Invented

The rope house (Molly’s) is in Tanner’s Yard

Taking the rope, or sleeping upright while hanging over a taut rope, cost 2d per night in 1888. It is thought that this is where the term ‘hangover’ came from because a night trying to sleep in a crowded room while hanging your upper body over a rope left you feeling pretty rough the next day.

You could also ‘take a coffin’ and rent an undertaker’s coffin for 4d per night. Some casual wards of workhouses and other hostels also had ‘coffins’, rough beds that resembled wooden coffins.

Other streets and places:

  • East Street with Cutpurse Lane off it
  • Cheap Street Market
  • Iron Bridge, at Limedock
  • Lane End Hospital (Mile End Hospital)
  • St Mary’s Hospital, Lady Clearwater’s project
  • Lessening Lane, Limedock
  • Christ Church, near the Ten Bells (real)

Bible Notes Random

It’s the nature of my book that I jot ideas and notes as I go through, so there will be some random notes that are not in chronological order. I might go back and add a character note to their page when they have one, but otherwise, I find whole pages dedicated to random jottings.

An Earl, a Cart, and a Midnight Journey

The original Chapter 42 from The Larkspur Legacy

Continuing my theme of publishing never-before-seen sections of the Clearwater and Larkspur mysteries, here is the original draft of Chapter 42 of The Larkspur Legacy. If you’ve read the book, you will know when this section was meant to go; if you haven’t, it comes after a storm and before the climax.

Realising the book was running at over 175,000 words, I had to make cuts, and this scene, although fun to imagine, didn’t serve much of a purpose. There’s a fair amount of internal thought/exposition in it which I later took out and placed in pieces elsewhere, and the adventure could quite easily happen off-stage. In other words, it wasn’t necessary and was something of a filler, so it had to go.

As with the other cuts and unused parts of my novels I present here, this is a first draft and hasn’t been proofread. Let’s call it An Earl, a Cart, and a Midnight Journey…

A man and his horse deliver the mail by cart, Stock Photo – credit: AgeFotoStock


Prussia Cove

Archer was woken from a fitful sleep by someone shaking his arm. Opening bleary eyes, it took him a moment to remember where he was and the name of the pink-cheeked, blond man crouching at his side.

‘It is dark, Sir,’ Clem said. ‘We can leave as soon as you be ready. It be a fair way, so the sooner we’re on the road, the better it be.’

‘I am at your command, Mr Carter. Give me five minutes.’

‘I’ve loaded the cart with some straw and some blankets,’ Clem said, standing and stretching his back. ‘You be best with your coat. It be dried by the fire now. If ye be hungry, there be bread and such beneath the canvas.’

‘Canvas? Are we to sail to Bodmin?’

‘Would it were that easy,’ Clem said, and took a rain cape from a peg. ‘Mr Hawkins said plain there were a chance of you being followed or watched, and them as might be doing it weren’t a be trusted. I made arrangements to get you there without being seen, but it ain’t a be pleasant. Only other way be to risk the night train and the chance of a cab at the other end, but that won’t be safe enough. Be quick now, Sir, we’ve many miles a cover tonight.’

Archer gathered what few things he had, and when they were both ready, Clem extinguished the lanterns bar one and led the way outside. The wind had dropped, but the night air remained cold, and was penetrated by an overriding smell of damp grass. There were few stars between the mottled clouds, themselves fading to black as the last of the dusk withered behind hills, and to the south, there were only a few lights from passing ships.

‘You best be in the back, Sir,’ Clem said, lifting his lantern to show Archer where he was to travel.

It was a cart drawn by two horses that were merely shapes in the gloom. Archer regarded the rough boards, the crates and boxes, and the canvas, secured at the sides but open at the back.

‘It’ll cover you, but you’ll have a be laying down.’

‘I see.’

It was not the way the earl was accustomed to travelling, and for the first time on his journey, he silently cursed Lady Marshall for setting him the challenge. Being at sea had, at first, revived his passion for being aboard ship, but later, once boredom and the storm set in, his enthusiasm had waned. Now, clambering into the back of a delivery man’s cart and taking up a position he was to keep for several hours, he wondered why the old ladies couldn’t have come up with something less tiresome.

‘Just bang the backboard if ye needs anything,’ Clem said. ‘I’ll tie this lose so it won’t blow about, and you can undo it if ye must. I got a change the horses outside Truro and agin at Lanivet, but everything be in order fur that.’

‘How long?’

‘Will have to see what the livery gives us, but I be reckoning on six or seven hours, Sir. I’ll take them as fast as I can, but don’t want a draw no attention. Mr Hawkins wrote there be someone watching Larkspur, so we’ll not be coming up the drive when we get there.’


‘You’ll see, Sir. Right, head down. Get back to sleep if ye can.’

Surprisingly, Archer could. He’d dozed during the afternoon, warmed by the fire until his insides no longer felt like ice, but after three days weathering the storm, his body was more tired than he realised.

Waking when the cart stopped, he had no idea where they were until he heard Clem’s voice on the other side of the canvas.

‘They’s not as sturdy as this team. They be the best you got, Denzel?’

‘Aye, me ’ansome, that’s the best I can be giving ye.’

‘I seen more meat on dead dog. Ah, well if this be it, then this be it.’

The cart dropped, and Archer became squashed against the backboard, until, grunting and swearing, Clem and his livery man lifted the stocks, and another pair of horses shuffled into place with their brasses clanking.

‘Be off, then, I will,’ Clem said at length. ‘I’ll have them back in a day or so.’


The journey began again, and when Archer judged they were away from the stable, he kicked the crates away, and resumed his position. There was no chance of sleep after that. Not only were the new horses slow, but they were also cumbersome, and he could tell Clem was having difficulty keeping them straight. It would have been much easier to take a train, or even ride home, but Silas’ warning had been clear. At least, it had been clear to Archer. To anyone else, the prose printed in the Egyptian newspaper would read as nonsense.

Vanished be the one who once wore ‘Amore Salvat’ like a dream, the message said. It was a reference to the ring Simon Harrington had given Archer when they were lovers, and the same as the one he had gifted Silas. For what’s left behind may not here come with thee. A hidden legacy was what his mother had left behind, and thus, the ship could not land with Archer aboard. The part about dust to dust meant that Archer could pretend to be lost at sea if that was necessary, and Silas would tell the others it was a pretence. But know this: the crew has oiled the wheels, and those wheels are turning. Silas had put in place a plan, and everyone knew, including Clem, now singing to himself as though happy to be driving through the night in December.

The rest of the strange publication suggested Silas intended to put a stop to Kingsclere before Archer returned, and that was the part that concerned him most. There was no way of telling what Kingsclere would do to steal the treasure, and as that was not yet found, there was no way of knowing how desperate or frustrated the earl had become. With madmen like Tripp and who knew who else working against them, Silas might put himself in danger without thinking of the consequences.

‘No might about it,’ Archer said, his mind now turning to what he would find when he was home.

The crew would have reached Larkspur by the early evening, and Mario Ricci would now be back aboard the Legacy with Captain Kent. There was work to do, and he would be with Bertie Tucker again, for a short while at least. What happened when the ship was ready to sail, and Kent had decided what to do with her, was an unknown, but the Legacy probably wouldn’t put to sea again until after winter.

Silas, meanwhile, would be waiting at Larkspur, ready to bring Archer up to date on events. Where was Jimmy? He and Andino had had plenty of time to get to Athens and back, and what of Tom?

There was much to contemplate, and by doing so, he hoped he might again induce sleep. It was creeping towards him some hours later when the cart turned and stopped.

‘I hope you know what time it is,’ a disgruntled voice said.

‘Aye, be coming on three. You’ll get your money.’

‘But I won’t get me sleep, will I?’

‘You know what me grandfader use a say, Mr Nance?’

‘No, and I don’t care to, neither.’

‘He used to say you can sleep when you be dead. Now, help me get this tack off, and I hope you got a better team than these two scragabouts. Taken hours here from Denzel’s.’

‘That ain’t surprising. What you want a be using him fur?’

The discussion about horses, liveries and midnight journeys continued as the harnesses clattered, the cart tipped, Archer suffered laying in a silent heap while Clem went off and, by the sound of it, relieved himself. The smell of wet canvas started to get the better of him, and he was on the verge of giving himself away with a sneeze, when the cart tipped back, and the men tethered the next team. The noise gave him a cover, but it still wasn’t a quiet a sneeze as he would have liked.

‘What were that?’

‘One of your nags letting air,’ Clem said. ‘I be back wi’e, in a few days, like I said.’

‘Aye, and make sure it ain’t three o’clock in the fucking morning, Carter. Be on yer way, and don’t give them too much feed. These two blow chronic.’

‘Wouldn’t expect nothing better, Mr Nance. God be with’e.’

The trundling, clattering and repetitive clomping began again, and Archer tried to think of things other than what he might find at home.

It proved an impossible task. Andrej should now be with Lucy, but there had been no news of her condition. There was a wedding coming up, assuming the poor woman had recovered from whatever ailment she suffered, and there would be a child in the house, assuming it had survived. As Mr Tanner had confirmed his translation while abord the Legacy, there should be three new leads on the chalkboard, but still the fourth clue to understand, unless Silas or Tom had had any luck. Silas might not be there. Jimmy might have taken on Kingsclere hand-to-hand and been…

Sleep overcame him, and when he woke, he was grateful for it, because his thoughts had been straying to the worst, but once more awake, he directed them to the point of his godmother’s quest.

‘To give you the grand tour you never took,’ someone had said, and it might have been Tom.

‘Because she and your mother liked puzzles and knew you do too,’ had been another suggestion, but there was a deeper reason, and it had something to do with Lady Marshall’s original letter.

To distract himself from the numbing in his legs and the pain in his back, the stink of canvas and flatulent horses, he though back and strained his memory.

The letter had called it his mother’s ‘hidden treasure’, but his godmother had not told him what it was, even though she could have done so in five words.

‘A stash of Romanian gold,’ he mused counting the words on his fingers. ‘The crown jewels of Hungary.’ Unlikely. ‘Complete ownership of Rasnov Castle.’ What would he want with that, and why keep it a secret?

No, it had to be something darker than that, and, being transported in darkness like a tea chest had not put him in the mood for dark thoughts. They could stay at the back of his mind, but they were hammering to be released.

There was too much to think about, too many unknowns, and pondering them would do him no good.

Without a lamp, he was unable to see the time, and not wanting to annoy Clem, he daren’t ask, but he wasn’t even sure what day it was, let alone how far they were from Larkspur.

‘Well, this is a fine kettle of fish,’ he whispered, because talking kept him amused. ‘The Earl of Clearwater discovered packed in with crates, being delivered to his home in style… There is a good reason.’

There was. His safety, and it was not only at the front of Silas’ mind when he wrote his coded prose, but also in the minds of the academy men and his friends. Even cherishing what his crew of young, loyal men, and Mrs Norwood, had done for him was not enough to keep the dark thoughts from escaping their metaphorical cage.

Hard though it was to imagine one of Kingsclere’s men lying in wait for him at the Hall, it was easier to imagine Adelaide. Discovering Archer ‘lost at sea’ or in some other way not aboard the ship that was no longer his, the inspector would have flown into a rage of frustration. Hopefully, Andrej had taken the advice and blustered as Archer had shown him how, and Kent had stood his ground. Even if not, Adelaide would still be after Archer’s blood. What little news had made it to the Egyptian papers had suggested as much, and the inspector’s desire for arrest had been compounded, no doubt, by Kingsclere’s determination to destroy Archer’s good name.

That was another dark thought to be shoved in the cage at the edge of his mind. The bars were bulging, and the lock in danger of cracking when the sound of the cartwheels changed, the horses slowed, and he heard Clem call them to a halt, before he said, ‘What you doing here?’

‘Morning, Mr Carter,’ was the reply, and it was a voice Archer recognised. ‘We thought it better if I showed him the way. Besides, Trevik has to get to his fields.’

‘Aye. Been some damage. You be lucky you missed the worst of it.’

‘I didn’t. I be fair freezing, Trevik. Be there a chance of cocoa from your mother’s stove.’

A laugh was followed by. ‘Always fur you, Carter. Get unloaded, and I’ll take ye inside. Art can do the rest. You brought your delivery, have’e?’

Archer was starting to think he’d been forgotten, but the canvas was whipped away revealing a sky glittering with a million stars, and, when he struggled to sit up and looked over the edge, Clem, Trevik Pascoe and his second footman, Art, were gawping at him by lanternlight.

‘Good morning, gentlemen,’ he said, trying to summon a sense of normality. ‘I assume I am at Far Farm.’

‘Aye, here you be, My Lord,’ Pascoe said. ‘And glad we are a see ye. I’ve hot water on if you be in need.’

‘Let me help you, Your Lordship.’

Art, to his credit, said nothing about Archer’s scraggy appearance, his crumpled overcoat, straggly beard and smell, as he helped him from the back of the cart, but he did suggest Mr Holt was already up and about and would have a hot bath ready.

‘That is kind of you,’ Archer said, his feet stinging when they hit the ground and his legs weak from lack of blood. ‘I assume we are to walk?’

‘After you’ve had a cup of tea,’ the young footman replied.

‘Aye, Sir, come inside and be warm a while. It’s a fair clamber through them tunnels to your cellar.’

‘Ah yes,’ Archer said, remembering how Pascoe used to take them to visit Art in secret. ‘You really are following in your ancestors’ footsteps, Mr Carter. Smuggling me into my own home.’

‘Best be safe, Sir,’ Pascoe said. ‘There’s been a stranger on the moor many nights, and Art says he means you harm. Quick. Inside now.’

‘I’ll have you home before dawn, Sir,’ Art said, taking Archer’s arm to guide him. ‘There’s lot to tell you.’

Cut: The Larkspur Legacy

And The Clearwater Companion

Today, and now and then from now on, I am going to put up parts of the Clearwater and Larkspur series that were cut from the final publications. It’s probably best if you only read these after you have read the book in case there are any spoilers. Eventually, there will be a separate area on my site for these outtakes, and for other material that was/is destined for ‘The Clearwater Companion.’ I’ve decided that putting my energy into producing the companion for print will take me away from what I want to do when I get back to a new series in a week or so. Thus, over time, I’ll work to build up the companion online, so anyone can access it for free.

Meanwhile, it’s a rather long chapter that never was, but here is what was to be chapter twenty of ‘The Larkspur Legacy.’ In a nutshell, Dalston, Joe and Andrej are travelling across Europe to meet the boat but must make a stop in Vienna, where Andrej has been called by his father who works for the Emperor.

Note: This is the first draft and hasn’t been proofed. Some of what happens here is related later in the book by Bertie Tucker, which, I thought was a better way of telling this part of the story.



DAY 10 of the Legacy voyage

Brought up in the workhouse, Dalston Blaze never imagined he would one day cross the channel on a steamer, ride a train to Paris, travel on night sleepers, or roll through the European countryside, let alone visit Vienna. The journey had taken four days, during which he had gazed from the window marvelling at the different styles of buildings when the train pulled into towns and cities, steamed through tunnels, and crossed land both flat and mountainous. During it, when not examining platforms for anyone who might be looking for them, he had sketched and read.

Joe had been doing the same, studying his ancient Egyptian writing, and pondering over Lord Clearwater’s clue. Keen to see the country they were making for, he was less interested in the scenery and more in the history and customs of where they were going once Mr Andrej had completed his business. The hours between changes, he spent flicking through a book, turning the words into images in his silent mind, and now and then showing Dalston something of interest. A pyramid, a thing called a sphinx, tombs and columns, but also drawings of strange creatures; a man with a hawk’s head, crocodiles, and, the image of their clue, a man with the head of a jackal. On one page of his book there was a plate, and when he showed that to Dalston, it chilled his blood. “Anubis,” the caption read, “God of Death.”

At that point, Dalston said he’d seen enough, and turned to Mr Andrej for conversation, asking where they were, and if they had to change trains again that day.

The Ukrainian had made the journey a few times before and knew exactly which train to catch from where, when to change and where to stay on the two nights they had broken the journey. At those times, he had been vigilant when sending their location back to Larkspur, but so far, they hadn’t noticed anyone on their tail.

Mr Andrej had also spent time looking at a small portrait Dalston had made of his intended, and not long after they’d left Paris, said, ‘What shall we call him?’

‘What?’ Joe signed, and when Dalston translated, signed, ‘She is a woman, and she has a name. Lucy.’

‘I think he means the child.’

‘He knows it’s a boy? How?’

‘Da, will be a boy,’ Mr Andrej said when Dalston explained. ‘I feel this.’

‘Have you talked about names? Andrej, perhaps?’

‘Would be find name, da, but, Miss Lucy says she already has one child called Andrej. Maybe, I call him Danylo, for my brother.’

‘Or Daniel, if he is to be British born.’

‘Is idea, da.’

The conversation had been repeated several times, both while traveling and when they stopped in a city to wait and send word back to London. On the nights they booked into a hotel, they stayed long enough for a reply to come back from Mrs Norwood.

Your message sent on to LH. W just left as planned. God speed.

Messages, Mr Hawkins had said, were to be as brief as possible, and as carefully written in case they somehow fell into enemy hands, but it didn’t take much for Dalston to work out that news of their journey was being sent to Larkspur and that Mr Wright, Frank and Chester had left for Greece and Egypt. Although leaving a few days after the Egypt party, so as to make tracking more difficult for Kingsclere, Chester would overtake them somewhere on their route, because he was joining an escorted tour that left France with a party of tourists and took them across the sea to Alexandria. There, he would leave the group, and, with any luck, vanish into his own people and set about his preparations unnoticed. Before the parties left London, Mrs Norwood had suggested they memorise their routes and arrival times, so every man knew where he had to be by when, but Dalston hadn’t been up to that challenge, and instead, wrote the journeys in symbols in his sketchbook. By his reckoning, as the train slowed to arrive in Vienna, James and Frank would be two days away from London, at the point where Chester was to leave them and make his way to the coast in the south of France. From Marseilles, he would travel with the Cook’s escorted tour directly to Alexandira, and if anyone was watching him, he would be able to pick them out with ease from among the well-to-do and rich; the only people who could afford the ticket. At the same time, according to his notes, the Legacy would be sailing east towards Genoa while Chester’s steamer cut across in front of it. A few days ahead of them, prehaps, but it was the same sea, and the crossing routes made for an interesting pattern in his mind.

Also, according to his notes, they were to spend no more than three days in Vienna before taking a complicated journey to meet the ship. Chester had shown them the route on one of his maps, and said it was one thousand miles by road, a figure Dalston couldn’t comprehend, but they had eleven days to reach the port, and he wasn’t unduly worried. They would probably take trains, and make more stops, however, because there was no rush, and apart from putting Kingsclere off their scent, Dalston was keen to see Venice, San Marino and other places he had never dreamt of seeing.

From the workhouse to this, he thought, as he closed his book and, began to gather his things.

‘You thinking what?’ Joe asked, after waving in his face.

‘Nothing. Just setting the journey in my head.’

‘Nearly there.’

‘Yeah. Pack up.’

No matter how exquisite the décor in a first-class carriage, there was nothing better than the relief of standing up after hours of sitting down. Dalston stretched his long legs, and, as the other two found their bags, and Mr Andrej scoured the carriage just in case, Dalston lowered the window to watch the approaching platform.

The locomotive made a great fuss of slowing, emitting groans and huffs as if it wanted those on the platform to know it had done a masterful deed and dragged these people all the way from Munich without stopping, when, in fact, it had stopped several times. He ducked back inside to avoid a cloud of steam, and when he looked again, through the last of the mist, he saw yet another sight he never thought a boy from the Hackney spike would ever witness.

Two liveried men stood on the platform, upright, arms behind their backs and their heads held erect. There was nothing new in seeing servants stand in that way, all the waiters in London did it, but these men weren’t waiters. They were dressed in yellow tailcoats finely adorned with thick, gold braid on the inner sleeves and the lapels, and beneath, they wore grey waistcoats with buttons that sparkled in the sunlight. A beam of it fell through the station roof as if specifically designed to highlight them, and left the other passengers gawping in shadow. The men had dark blue breeches to high stockings, and flat, black shoes beneath. They were several steps up even from Mr Nancarrow’s fine livery, but at least the Larkspur butler didn’t have to wear a wig of the last century.

‘Blood hell,’ Dalston said as the carriage stopped directly in front of the pair. ‘There’s some right nob on this train, and no mistake.’

The mistake was his.

Mr Andrej said something that sounded like a swear word, and added, ‘Why?’

‘Is the emperor aboard?’ Joe signed with a shrug.

‘Must be.’ Dalston looked along the tops of the seating, but saw no-one else rising. He assumed it was bad form for anyone to leave the carriage before the Emperor, and so hung back, but when Mr Andrej swore again and opened the door, it dawned on him these men were there to meet them.

‘I told them we stay hotel this night,’ Mr Andrej said, standing back to usher Joe onto the platform first. ‘Why they do this? My father has sent them…’

Dalston stepped down next, leaving Mr Andrej mumbling behind, and as soon as the Ukrainian set foot on the stone, the two footmen snapped their heels together as suddenly as they jerked their heads down and up. Expressionless, one raised his arm to direct the party to the station exit, and the situation became even more strange when onlookers stood aside to let them pass. One footman, as Dalston assumed they were, walked ahead with the three of them in the middle and the other uniformed man behind, and it reminded him of being marched to the cells in Newgate prison.

‘We are shit at being secret,’ Joe signed as they walked, and his hand movements caused people to stare, worsening the spectacle.

‘Just follow, and keep your head down,’ Dalston signed. ‘At least no-one’s going to attack us when we have an escort.’

‘For Mr Andrej?’

‘Must be.’


‘Because he’s the son of a baron, and his father’s high up in the court. Weren’t you listening?’

‘Very funny.’

‘Oh shit. Is worse.’ It was Mr Andrej who said that, and when he was led from the station and into the sunlight, Dalston saw why.

The footman led them to a carriage, but one unlike any Dalston had seen. Bowl-shaped, the body sat high above four wheels, the back one larger than the front, and its top was adorned with fancy gold leaves pointing skywards. It had gold trim around its windows, large, ornate lanterns, and a crest on the door. Even the wheel spokes were trimmed with gold, and the two horses wore plumes, with their manes braided. They were held by another liveried man, this one wearing a cloak and tall hat, and holding a whip. He also bowed sharply when Mr Andrej approached, and one of the footmen opened the door, inviting the men inside. It was only then that Dalston realised they’d not collected their luggage.

‘Our bags?’ he said, but Mr Andrej wasn’t listening, he was trying to ask the footman something, but the man made no reply.

‘Not speak English,’ Joe signed.

‘Our bags?’


Porters arrived with their belongings and began loading them onto the back of the carriage where one of the footmen secured them.

‘We go,’ Mr Andrej said, and bent to climb aboard.

With no other option, Dalston followed, and took a place on velvet-lined seats, where furs had been provided against the cold air.

‘We go where?’ Joe signed, and Mr Andrej told them they were in an imperial carriage, so they were being taken to a place called Hofburg.

‘Is that a town?’

‘Nyet. Is where my father works and lives. Why he send this?’

Dalston’s guess was as good as anyone else’s. ‘To surprise you?’ he suggested.

‘Is big surprise, da.’ Mr Andrej smiled. ‘I write to tell him when we come, and I have two friends. Maybe he want to meet you.’

‘Maybe they’ll drop us at the hotel,’ Dalston said as the carriage set off.

It glided over the cobbles as though someone had put down carpet, and, as it took its leisurely pace through wide streets, he was able to admire the buildings. They passed a large park on one side, and four-storey houses on the other which became grander the further they rode. Well-dressed pedestrians stopped to stare in, as if they were expecting to see royalty, while others ignored the carriage and went about their business of parading beneath parasols, or wrapping shawls tighter as they sat outside street cafes sipping from delicate cups.

They had just passed a square with a statue in the centre, when Joe signed he wanted to ask Mr Andrej something.

‘Da, what?’

‘He wants to know why you don’t live here,’ Dalston interpreted. ‘Why, if your father is a baron in the Royal Austrian court, do you work as a groom in England? Sorry if he is being a bit personal.’

‘Nyet, Vohon.’ Mr Andrej was still smiling, and it broadened when he used his nickname for Dalston which, he’d said, translated as Fire. ‘I will tell him. I am not groom, I am Master of the Larkspur Horse, and I live where I live because I love Geroy, and I love my Lucy. I have my friends at home, so why I want to come and be here? You see how they treat me. Is embarrassment.’

‘But your father is here.’

‘Da. But this I not know until nearly two years ago.’

Dalston explained to Joe, who had been reading Mr Andrej’s lips, but he still wasn’t satisfied.

‘Joe asks a lot of questions, sorry,’ he said. ‘He doesn’t understand how you ended up working for Lord Clearwater when you came from abroad, and why you don’t now live in a palace with your father.’

If Mr Andrej was annoyed by the intrusion, he didn’t show it. He placed one of the furs over his knees, and rested back into the plush.

‘Is long story, Mr Joe,’ he said. ‘I leave my homeland when I was younger, I think fourteen, maybe not. My father… The man I thought was my father was dead. So was my mother, and my sisters and brothers, maybe. I not know. Our neighbour, Yakiv Blumkin, he tries to take me away from Russians who are killing our people, but I say, no. I go my own way. I come to England on ship with Captain Kent, who is now with Geroy on sea. I meet Banyak… Mr Hawkins. We meet Geroy, he gives us job. Then, January last year, I go with Pianino long way to Rasnov. Is in Transylvania, and we stop in Vienna where Mr Blumkin is, but he is not Mr Blumkin the neighbour, he is Baron Kubinsky of Judenburg, and he is in high position in court because his title puts him there. He tells me… He shows me he is my real father. But, I stay with Geroy, and I have Miss Lucy, and I have friends, like you have Joe, and I am happy where I am. Now, that is enough, questions, Mr Joe.’ He glanced from the window. ‘We are there in minute.’

Dalston had kept up with the translation as best he could, but it wasn’t easy when Joe interrupted him asking who Pianino was and what was Transylvania, which Dalston didn’t know how to spell. Pianino was Jasper Blackwood, he explained, the pianist, and he couldn’t say why they had made the trip, but all he and Joe needed to know was they were probably being taken to meet an important man, and Joe had to behave himself.

‘Me?’ Joe gaped. ‘Fuck off.’

Dalston grinned. ‘We never know, someone there might speak our language.’

‘Not likely. How long we stay?’

‘Two days.’

‘Why? We have lots of time. Maybe we stay longer?’

‘No. We have a schedule.’

‘But look…’ Joe pointed from the window. ‘All this. You draw. Look there, museum… and there, big church. No hurry to get to boat. We have ten days.’

‘What he saying?’

‘Joe wants us to stay in Vienna longer than we should. He thinks we have plenty of days before we need to be in Italy.’

‘Da, Mr Joe is right, but we must do what we are told. Jimmy knows best. I see my father today, tomorrow, and after, we start again on journey. We stay in one place too long, the svolochi find us easy. Safer is, we go in two days. Da?’

Dalston wasn’t going to argue with him, but Joe wanted to. However, their entry into a large, open courtyard put paid to more questions, because there was nothing else to do but stare in awe at their surroundings. After passing through a columned gatehouse, the carriage took a graceful curve, following a line of arches supporting columns that in turn supported a balustrade four floors up, beneath which were tall windows in a classically fronted, semi-circular building of immense size.

‘Fancy house,’ Joe signed as if he was bored, when his wide eyes betrayed what he really thought.

The carriage pulled up beneath another arch, where the weakening sunlight was supplemented by flaming torches, and Dalston waited for Mr Andrej to move first. The horse master himself waited until one of the footmen had opened the door, and Dalston assumed that was the form. Once the step was lowered, Mr Andrej ducked out, and they were met by another man wearing a military uniform who greeted them with the customary snap of head and heels.

‘Herr Blumkin, welcome,’ he said in English, but offered no hand to shake. ‘I trust you had a good journey.’

‘Was long,’ Mr Andrej replied.

‘Of course. I am Herr Gruber, assistant to Von Kubinsky. Your father waits for you in his chambers. You will stay at the palace, Sir, and I will show you up, but perhaps you would like your companions taken to the hotel. I can arrange it.’

‘Nyet. Why am I here?’

The man, no older than thirty, Dalston thought, but assured and upright, twitched at the bluntness.

‘Your father’s request, Sir. I will explain on the way.’

‘Nyet. Now.’

The man faltered. ‘Perhaps it would be best if your friends returned…’

‘Nyet. They stay with me.’

That time, Herr Gruber both faltered and twitched, his confidence waning. ‘As you wish, Sir,’ he managed. ‘They might wait outside the baron’s rooms.’

‘What is wrong?’


Mr Andrej growled in his throat. ‘You not tell me why we come here. You want rid of my friends. What is wrong?’

‘It really would be best if we were alone…’

‘Gruber, you say?’

‘Yes, Sir. Assistant to…’

‘Gruber. I not go anywhere without these two. They are under my protection. They stay with me. That is that. Now, why my father call me here straight from stinking train? We are hungry, we are tired, and we want rest. Find them rooms with me, but first, tell me. What is wrong?’

Gruber had paled, but waved a gloved hand and said something to the footmen who unloaded the bags and passed them to two more servants who had appeared from inside.

‘Please, come with me,’ Gruber said, and showed the party into a hallway.

It was not like any hallway Dalston had encountered. Their shoes squeaked on a marble floor as they entered something as large as the refectory at the Hackney workhouse. A massive stone staircase climbed to a gallery and split either side, with chandeliers hanging low from a ridiculously high ceiling. White and gold painted doors led to who knew where, and the walls were covered with paintings of uniformed officials, and women in glittering gowns. For all its grandeur, however, the entrance was cold, and Dalston chilled further when it dawned on him that Mr Andrej had demanded they stay the night in a royal palace.

Joe nudged him, and signed, ‘Fuck’ with his jaw dropped, but remained still when Dalston glared.

‘Before we go up, there is something I must tell you,’ Gruber said, one eye on the servants disappearing with cases. ‘Your father called for you because he is not well. He was keen to…’

‘What you mean, not well?’

‘I mean he is ill, Sir. Gravely ill.’

Gruber dragged out his words to give them weight, and Mr Andrej’s pallor soon resembled that of the official.

‘I must be honest with you, Sir. Your father, although sound of mind, is very week of body. The physicians have suggested your visit is timely. A few days later, and you may have been too late.’

Mr Andrej said nothing, but marched past Grubber to the stairs, and began to climb. Gruber, protesting, followed, leaving Dalston and Joe with no choice but to do the same. There was no time to explain to Joe what was happening, but Gruber had spoken slowly, and his English was good. Joe had probably read his lips, because he, too, looked grave as they took the stairs, following Mr Andrej’s ever-quickening pace.

‘My father is in his rooms?’

‘Yes, Sir, but please, we must ask the nurse if…’

‘We ask nothing. Why he not tell me this before?’

‘He was reluctant to inform you at all, Sir, for fear of upset. It was me who insisted you be called.’

‘You were right.’

‘I am glad you agree, Sir. To the left here.’

‘I know where my father lives,’ Mr Andrej yapped, and led them into a wide, heavily decorated corridor where windows overlooked a manicured garden.

‘Of course, Sir. Please…’ Grubber managed to slow the tall Ukrainian by placing a hand on his arm. ‘Quietly and slowly. We must ask the nurse if it is a suitable time to visit.’

Having passed through one set of double doors, Mr Andrej came to a halt outside another, his urgency evaporated, and his shoulders slumped.

‘Will you wait here, Herr Blumkin?’

‘Da,’ was all Mr Andrej said, and he turned away from the doors as if not wanting to see what lay beyond when Gruber slipped into the room.

‘Can we help?’ Dalston said.

Mr Andrej shook his head. ‘Sickness, I am used to,’ he said. ‘But this, I was not expecting. Why? Every time, why?’

Dalston could only shrug when Joe asked him what that meant, and seeing Mr Andrej’s distress, knew it wasn’t the time to enquire.

The servants appeared with the cases, but kept their heads down as they passed, and entered a room further along the passage in silence.

Dalston and Joe were under Mr Andrej’s protection, but at that moment, it felt as if the situation had been reversed. Mr Andrej, usually so assured and dignified, was trembling, and his eyes had moistened.

‘Would you like us to come in with you?’ Dalston whispered.

The big man turned to him, glanced at Joe, and beckoned them close. ‘Vohon,’ he said, and grabbed Dalston’s hand. ‘I not want you to come in with me. I need you come in with me. Please?’